by Andrew Echevarria…
Was Brian McCabe really more of a Toronto Maple Leaf than Mats Sundin? The answer is yes. I’m not going to start by telling you why, because then most of you won’t bother to read the rest of this article to find out how I arrived at this conclusion.
Let’s start off by taking a look at our controversial character here: Brian McCabe.
The gritty defenseman started his career with the New York Islanders, only two years after being drafted. Years went by and so did his name. He just couldn’t seem to find a home, and the fact that he only managed to get 20-29 points per season didn’t help. He had grit, but that still didn’t make up for it.
Just like a stray dog looking for a new home, Brian McCabe arrived in Toronto. There was no way Brian knew Toronto was going to be his home for the years to come, so he had to show them what he could do.
In his first season in Toronto, he achieved the same number of points he made in his second season in the league; not very impressive with all those years he should’ve improved on, but yet, it he had tied his career high in a new place.
For some players, the higher their PIM is, the better they are, but this didn’t apply for McCabe. Brian McCabe was more of a skilled defenseman than a gritty one. He slowly began to take less penalty minutes and that might’ve been one of the explanations for his improvement.
Getting back to the story, on his second season in Toronto, he achieved a career high of 43 points. During the Leafs’ playoff runs that 2002 year, he also got 10 points in 20 games. Brian McCabe was red hot, but was that as hot as he could get?
His following season seemed to prove some analysts right. Although he only started in 75 games, he finished the season with 24 points.
His penalty minutes increased that season by six, despite having played more games the prior season. There might be a link between penalty minutes and how well he plays eh?
This shouldn’t have taken long for McCabe to figure out, during his next season, he only summed up a total of 86 PIM. His stats were pretty impressible that year; he dug up 53 points out of nowhere. In the playoffs that season, he contributed with eight points in 13 games, better than he had done in previous seasons.
The following season was even more incredible, he piled up 68 points in only 73 games. If Brian McCabe had that season all over again this season, there’s no doubt he would end the season as the No. 1 defensemen in the NHL; points-wise.
You can see that until that point Brian McCabe was a descent player. Everyone thought McCabe would stay in Toronto until he retires, and everyone would live happily ever after.
The End…Or is it?
Nearing the trade deadline of the ‘07-’08 season, Brian McCabe was asked to waive his no trade clause, but he refused.
Brian McCabe was traded to the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2008. In return, the Leafs acquired defenseman Mike Van Ryn and a draft pick.
Not a very good way to treat McCabe, but it seemed to be over.
Mats Sundin’s career is probably more well known that McCabe’s, so I won’t spend much time on it.
Mats Sundin was drafted by the Nordiques in the 1989 NHl Entry draft.
You know how the rest goes, he was later on traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He served the Leafs for thirteen seasons, and played great in each one. He later went on to become the captain of the Leafs and lead them to the conference finals in 2002.
In the ‘07-’08 season, Mats Sundin had to be traded. The Leafs were beginning to rebuild and they could’ve acquired a nice package that included a draft pick, a prospect, and a roster player heading to Toronto.
This would’ve been easy to do, but the only problem was that Mats Sundin had a no-trade clause.
Mats was asked to waive it, but he refused. He said he didn’t believe in rental players.
The Leafs failed to make the playoffs that season, and Mats Sundin went into questioning his active status in the NHL. Finally, he decided he wanted to return and play hockey, however, all Torontonians lost hope.
December came and Mats Sundin signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
So here we are. We have our two candidates, perhaps my summaries of their hockey careers were rather poor, but everyone knows who they are.
I could just make everyone vote, and then everyone would be happy with the final answer, but no.
Why? Steve Dangle seemed to explain it pretty well “Curtis Joseph leaves Toronto, he’s a villain. Mats Sundin doesn’t want to leave Toronto, he’s a villain.”
Who’s the villain in this case? The grand Leaf captain or the guy who scores on his own net.
In this case, both players left Toronto, but it’s how their departure influenced the team that counts.
Brian McCabe didn’t leave the team for more money like Curtis Joseph. At the trade deadline, he didn’t want to leave, some people might’ve been mad with McCabe at the moment. During September he finally waived it, and yet some people were mad.
It’s between to choices, staying or going.
Brian McCabe stays, everyone hates him.
Brian McCabe goes, everyone still hates him.
Make up your mind people!
Maybe some people still don’t hate him, there was a picture of Brian McCabe put up in the ACC in the game against Florida and people actually cheered. But let’s not forget that every time Brian McCabe touched the puck, the booing started. Not a very nice way to treat a guy who left the team he loved so that he could help give them a future.
Now, let’s look at Mats Sundin.
I’m just going to start of by saying Mats Sundin was a rental player with the Leafs. Yes, all those 13 years he played with the Leafs, he was a rental player.
How so? When rental players are done being rented, they go off and sign with another team. Mats had to finish what he started. If he wanted to leave, he could’ve set up a trade with Cliff Fletcher at the moment.
He could’ve been traded to another team, and once the season ended there, he could sign with Vancouver or whoever he wanted and not be seen as a traitor.
Mats Sundin had lots of value in him, and the least he could’ve done was give us something to remember him with. It’s like a long war; at the end of the war, when your nation wins, you remember all the soldiers that gave up their lives for the best of the nation.
If Mats Sundin isn’t a soldier, then what is he?
Perhaps Mats thought he was going to retire at the end of the season, and didn’t expect to come back. In that case, when he did come back, Toronto obviously wouldn’t have been the right place for him. If Mats Sundin wasn’t expecting to come back, then why didn’t he waive his no-trade clause and get traded?!
Sundin could play until he was 50, or retire the next year, whatever he chose to do, the Leafs would be thankful for him waiving his no-trade clause. When the Leafs would’ve won the Stanley Cup, we’d all think “Mats was a big part of this.”
Feb. 21. That’s the day we’ll see what Toronto thinks. Will Mats be booed or cheered? We’ll have to wait to find out.